The EU forces Amazon to simplify the cancellation of Prime subscriptions in Europe
Amazon has agreed to simplify the process of canceling Prime in Europe, meaning customers in the region can cancel their subscription in just two clicks, the European Commission has announced. The changes, implemented as of July 1, should put an end to the “multiple pages” of “distracting information” and “unclear button labels” that Amazon previously used to tighten the cancellation process.
According to the European Commission, the changes apply to the European Union and the European Economic Area. Although the UK left the former in early 2020, The guard reports that UK subscribers will also benefit from the two-click cancellation process. But when asked for comment, an Amazon spokesperson dodged questions about whether it would implement similar changes in the US, saying it had “no changes to announce at this time.”
“Customer transparency and trust are our top priorities,” spokesman Bradley Mattinger said in an emailed statement. “Our design makes it clear and easy for our customers to sign up for or cancel their Prime membership. We’re constantly listening to feedback and looking for ways to improve the customer experience and have no changes to announce at this time.”
Amazon agreed to make the changes after a complaint from EU consumer groups, including the Norwegian Consumer Council, which produced a detailed report in January 2021 on Amazon’s opaque Prime cancellation process. The report includes screenshots of the multiple pages users must scroll through to unsubscribe from a subscription that allegedly employs “manipulative design techniques” also known as “dark patterns.”
The European Commission says Amazon had to change its process to comply with the bloc’s Unfair Commercial Practices Policy. Amazon had previously agreed to change its web interface to more clearly label the cancel button and trim distracting text, but now it says it will trim that explanatory text even further. The changes will be made across desktop, mobile, and tablet.
“Consumers must be able to exercise their rights without pressure from platforms,” Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said in a statement. “One thing is clear: manipulative design or ‘dark patterns’ must be banned. I applaud Amazon’s commitment to simplifying its practices so consumers can freely and easily unsubscribe.”
Future EU legislation could further restrict such user interfaces. The forthcoming Digital Services Act (DSA), which EU lawmakers tentatively approved earlier this year, is expected to include explicit bans on the use of “dark patterns”. The DSA is expected to become effective 15 months after its passage or from January 1, 2024, whichever is later.